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Becoming creative with film sound


American Zoetrope is going to change the world of cinema
Walter Murch Film-maker
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That spring, I wound up working on making the sound effects all by myself, for The Rain People. And then we piled everything into a big rental truck van and Aggie drove the truck up to San Francisco from Los Angeles, with me asleep, having worked all night, and the baby in a little basinet and we started American Zoetrope in a warehouse just south of Market Street in San Francisco and we were going to change the world.

Because we had all been pushed to film school by the excitement of world cinema. In my case, the new wave. Francis also was excited by that and we... He had seen a company in Denmark called, Lanterna Films and he thought, this is what I want it to be and so American Zoetrope is a child of Lanterna Magica Films. And the idea was that we would recreate a company that would be just like how we made films as film students. With everybody doing everything and it would all be very exciting and we would be able to infuse the films we made with the aesthetics of European and world cinema that we felt were lacking and this would invigorate American film making. It was like a graft of a new branch that could produce some kind of interesting fruit and that was our mission, to... And it was fairly... It was not just unconscious. This was very consciously... This was what we wanted to do.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: American Zoetrope, Lanterna Magica Films

Duration: 2 minutes, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017